APTN National News
OTTAWA–A meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and First Nations leaders is in the works, but it won’t happen before the fall, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Monday.
Duncan said the government is involved in talks with Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo and developing an “action plan” to deal with the litany of outstanding issues facing Indigenous communities in the country.
“We are having discussions with the national chief. We are looking at an action plan that we can work on together,” said Duncan, during question period responding to a query from Liberal leader Bob Rae. “Part of that dialogue will be to discuss this very gathering that the member is bringing up. So, that is something we will flesh-out over the next period of time. Hopefully we will come to something quite solid in the fall.”
Rae was taking aim at the Conservatives over their failure to deal with poverty in the country.
“In light of the statements by the government with respect to its desire to improve the conditions of Aboriginal people, I would say that Chief Atleo, in his statements on the Speech from the Throne, made it very clear that…the meeting had to take place on a government-to-government basis, on a basis that fully respects the jurisdiction of First Nations and Aboriginal people.”
Harper has already expressed his interest in meeting with First Nations leaders and directed his officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and in Duncan’s office to explore the issue, according to a Dec. 8, 2010 letter to Atleo.
“With respect to the proposed Crown-First Nations gathering, I remain open to participating and I ask that you work with my office and minister Duncan’s office to assess the viability of such an event,” said Harper in the letter.
Harper’s letter followed an Oct. 28, 2010, meeting with Atleo where the prime minister pledged his support for improving reserve education.